Monday, August 8, 2022

The Violin Case Murders (1965)

The Violin Case Murders (AKA Tread Softly, original German title Schüsse aus dem Geigenkasten) was the first of the eight Jerry Cotton crime thrillers made by Allianz Filmproduktion in West Germany and distributed by Constantin Film. The Jerry Cotton movies were similar in some ways to the hugely popular Rialto Edgar Wallace krimis but with more emphasis on action and with a harder edge. Being ostensibly set in the United States rather than England also gives them a distinctively different flavour.

American actor George Nader played ace FBI agent Jerry Cotton with German actor Heinz Weiss in the sidekick rôle as Phil Decker.

This movie hits the ground running. There’s a brutal murder using a machine-gun hidden in a violin case followed by two more equally brutal murders. The murders take place during the course of two robberies. One robbery takes place in Pasadena in California and one in Chicago but when the FBI gets a phone tip-off indicating that the crimes are linked it becomes a federal case.

The tip-off came from Mary Springfield. She’s found out that her sister Kitty is mixed up with gangsters, and those gangsters are pulling off major robberies with violence.

Jerry Cotton gets just enough information out of Mary to provide a lead. It involves a bowling alley near Grand Central Station and a bomb. It’s a race against time and Jerry has to infiltrate the gang by posing as an alcoholic hoodlum. Why an alcoholic? Well I guess there’s a sort of reason for it and it lets George Nader have some fun.

Jerry discovers the gang’s plan but stopping them won’t be easy and there’s a complication which means Jerry has to go lone wolf. He can’t let his boss at the FBI know what he’s up to. Jerry has reasons for his action but it could put his career in jeopardy if it goes wrong. That’s assuming he survives which is by no means certain. He’s taking big risks.

This is a heist movie. The heist is not overly complicated but the focus is mainly on how it plays out in practice and that’s where this movie shines. Things go wrong for the gang but they go badly wrong for Jerry Cotton as well. It seems like the gangsters are going to slip through his fingers.

This is a pretty violent movie for 1965. There’s no blood or gore but there are some shockingly cold-blooded killings.

The pacing is pleasingly brisk. Jerry Cotton has little time to spare for romance. He’s dedicated to the job and he’s hardboiled all the way through.

George Nader makes a very satisfactory square-jawed action hero. Nader had had moderate success in Hollywood in the 50s but by the 60s he joined the small army of American actors and actresses who found that Europe offered much better opportunities.

Jerry Cotton is a pulp fiction fan’s idea of what an FBI agent would be like. This is not a movie that concerns itself overmuch with realism.

Making a modestly budgeted feature in Germany with an American setting means that considerable use has to be made of rear projection and stock footage but these elements are integrated into the movie with more finesse than is usually the case. Once the story starts to grab you you find yourself not really noticing.

Mention must be made of Peter Thomas’s music. It’s wildly inappropriate but it works and it adds to the crazy 60s euro vibe.

All eight Jerry Cotton films are included in the recent German DVD boxed set, with the English dubbed versions included. The 16:9 enhanced transfer for The Violin Case Murders looks terrific (the movie was shot widescreen in black-and-white although the later movies in the series were in colour).

The Violin Case Murders aims to provide pure high-octane entertainment and it delivers the good. Highly recommended.

Friday, August 5, 2022

Operation Diplomat (1953)

Operation Diplomat is a 1953 British B-movie crime thriller and the title suggest that we might get a hint of international intrigue as well. That turns out to be the case.

Mark Fenton (Guy Rolfe) is a prominent surgeon. He’s a bit surprised when he’s approached by a nurse and told to get into the back of an ambulance but she tells him there’s a very seriously ill man in the ambulance. Mark Fenton takes being a doctor very seriously. He’s not going to refuse such an urgent request. When he gets into the ambulance there’s no patient but he gets a gun pointed at him and he’s driven to a remote house in the country.

That’s where his patient is but Wade (Sydney Tafler), the man with the gun, has no intention of revealing the name of the patient. He does offer Fenton a very fat fee to treat the patient and keep his mouth shut.

Then lots of perplexing things start to happen to Mark Fenton. He is drugged. He is introduced to the prospective daughter-in-law of one of his patients, a girl named Lisa (Lisa Daniely), and he’s sure he saw her at that mysterious country house. He is interrogated by a man from the Foreign Office, but maybe he’s not from the Foreign Office at all. He finds out the identity of the man on whom he operated, but the identification must be wrong. Corpses star to accumulate around him. The police don’t believe a word of his story.

This is one of those thrillers in which a very ordinary man is caught in a web of intrigue which he doesn’t understand, he can’t ask the police for help and if he wants to survive he’ll have to somehow untangle that web himself.

Mark Fenton is neither a detective nor a spy but he’s an intelligent man and he doesn’t enjoy being manipulated.

He’s also annoyed when a nurse at the hospital, Sister Rogers (Patricia Dainton), gets drawn into the situation. He’s also annoyed that some of the accumulating corpses seem to belong to innocent bystanders. He’s dealing with ruthless people who will kill without hesitation.

He doesn’t have many clues to go on. Just something about a golden valley, which he comes to suspect is a location in Hampshire.

It would help if he knew where that mysterious house is, but he has no idea.

It’s pretty obvious what the bad guys are up to but who are the bad guys? Wade is clearly a bad guy but it’s equally clear that he’s a minor player and that someone else is pulling the strings.

There’s mystery and suspense and at least one good action sequence.

This movie has a really fine cast. Guy Rolfe’s gaunt looks made him a successful character actor but here he shows that he could handle leading roles very well indeed. He brings a certain determined sincerity to his performance. Lisa Daniely and Patricia Dainton were fine actresses. There’s Anton Diffring, who revelled in rôles that allowed him to play a sinister foreigner (in British movies of this period all foreigners are considered sinister unless proven otherwise).

Sydney Tafler is a particular favourite of mine. He was equally adept in comic and serious parts and always brought that little something extra to his performances.

This movie was based on a Francis Durbridge story and it’s very much typical of the Durbridge approach to the thriller genre, with the hero having to deal with lots of nasty little plot twists. Operation Diplomat is also reminiscent of the Eric Ambler approach - take an ordinary sort of guy and plunge him into a world of crime or espionage in which he is hopelessly out of his depth. Durbridge’s most famous character is crime writer-amateur detective Paul Temple who appeared in numerous radio plays, novels (the first being Send for Paul Temple), several movies (beginning with Send for Paul Temple in 1946) and the excellent 1969-71 BBC Paul Temple TV series. Durbridge also did lots of TV serials for the BBC, including A Game of Murder (1966), A Man Called Harry Brent (1965) and The Doll (1975). Anything Francis Durbridge wrote is going to be thoroughly enjoyable twisted entertainment.

Operation Diplomat was adapted from a Durbridge-penned TV serial which was probably a new benefit - having to compress the action into 70 minutes means the pacing is pleasingly brisk. It probably also explains why the occasional plot strand is left hanging (we never really find out about the painting which initially seems like it’s going to be a vital clue).

Director John Guillermin would go on to helm blockbusters such as The Towering Inferno and King Kong but even more interesting (to me at least) is that he directed one of the best-ever Tarzan movies, Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure (1959), and the very underrated WW1 aerial combat movie The Blue Max.

This movie is included in the Renown Pictures Crime Collection Volume 4 DVD boxed set. The transfer is extremely good. A brief introduction to the film by star Patricia Dainton is the only extra.

Operation Diplomat is fast-moving lightweight entertainment. Don’t think too much about the plot, just sit back and enjoy the fun and the fine performances. Recommended.

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Vengeance is Mine (1949)

Vengeance is Mine is a 1949 British crime melodrama B-movie. The central premise has been used a number of times but it’s a premise that does promise some decent suspense and some twists.

Charles Heywood (Valentine Dyall) hires a hitman to kill him. The reason is obvious. Charles is dying and he wants to be murdered in order to frame someone for his murder.

It’s all part of an obsessive campaign of revenge that he’s been waging against Richard Kemp (Arthur Brander). Charles had been a successful businessman. Kemp involved him, unwittingly, in a nasty fraud. Kemp got off scot-free but Charles served a lengthy prison term.

As soon as he was released Charles set about slowly destroying Richard Kemp.

Then fate threw a curve ball at Charles. His doctor informed him that he had six months to live. That’s when Charles came up with his clever plan to frame Kemp. He found a very unlikely hitman in the person of Sammy Parsons (Richard Goolden). Sammy seems like a silly jovial ageing eccentric but that’s why he’s such a deadly and successful hitman. Nobody would ever suspect him.

You can probably guess some of the plot twists that follow. The upshot is that Charles has to find Sammy Parsons. But Sammy Parsons is nowhere to be found. This is apparently his usual method. When he’s about to make a hit he just disappears for a few weeks before carrying out the killing. And nobody has ever figured out exactly where it is that he disappears to.

The other complication for Charles is his secretary Linda Farrell (Anne Firth). He’s fallen hopelessly in love with her, and she loves him. She has taught him that there’s more to life than revenge. She has given him a glimpse of happiness. But Charles has two sentences of death hanging over his head.

This was clearly a cheap movie. A quota quickie if you like.

Writer-director Alan Cullimore seems to have made only two feature films including his one. On the evidence of this film he was moderately competent but given the low budget he presumably had little opportunity to do anything clever or ambitious.

Valentine Dyall is an interesting actor. He achieved his greatest fame in radio (he had a great voice). He did a lot of television work. In movies he mostly played supporting rôles. This is one of his very few starring rôles. He does quite a good job here, making Charles obsessive and disturbing in his obsessiveness but still fairly sympathetic. There’s a lot of good in Charles. He just needs a woman who can bring out that good in him. Maybe Linda can do that, but maybe it will be too late.

Charles slowly softens as he begins dimly to perceive what his quest for vengeance has done to him, and the gradual change in his character is believable. Linda is slowly teaching him to have trust. Maybe not trust in people in general, but he is learning to trust her and that’s a start.

Anne Firth is fine as Linda. We can see why she’s attracted to Charles. She can see things in him that he can’t see himself.

Sam Kydd plays Charles’ faithful friend and business associate Stacy. This is one of Kydd’s more substantial parts and he’s very solid.

You know that there are several ways the plot could be resolved and although we suspect how it will end we can’t be certain. Cullimore’s script is quite competent.

This is one of ten movies in the Renown Pictures Crime Collection Volume 2 DVD boxed set. The quality of the movies is variable but it does include neglected gems such as The Third Alibi (1961) and Impulse (1954). The transfer for Vengeance is Mine is far from pristine but it’s perfectly watchable.

An enormous number of fine British crime B-movies have been released on DVD over the past few years. Companies like Network specialise in finding obscure but forgotten treasures and releasing them in superb transfers. Renown Pictures take a different approach. They simply find any obscure forgotten B-film and release it completely unrestored. Some of their releases are, to be honest, movies that have been forgotten because they deserved to be forgotten. But Renown will collect ten or so obscure movies and release them in boxed sets. They’re like a lucky dip. You know that most of the movies in these sets will be so-so but you also know that each set will contain at least a couple of absolute gems. The sets work out to be great value for money. And even the lesser movies are sometimes interesting.

Vengeance is Mine isn’t a great movie but it’s decent entertainment as long as you don’t set your expectations too high. Recommended.

Sunday, July 31, 2022

The Killing (1956)

The film noir/heist movie The Killing was Stanley Kubrick’s third feature film. That’s if you count Fear and Desire (1953). Kubrick didn’t. He didn’t want it ever to be seen again. So Kubrick would have regarded The Killing as his second real feature, following Killer’s Kiss (1955).

The Killing was based on Lionel White’s excellent noir novel Clean Break which I’ve reviewed elsewhere.

The Killing has been hailed for its innovative approach to narrative but in fact most of the innovations were already present in the novel.

For The Killing Kubrick had an extremely strong cast. Not huge stars, but very fine people perfectly cast.

This is a complex and intricate heist story. Johnny Clay (Sterling Hayden) has been serving five years in prison. Now he’s out and he plans to rob the racetrack. It can’t be done. There’s just too much security. But Johnny thinks he’s found a fool-proof way to do it. And it really is a very clever plan. There’s just one minor weakness. The plan is fiendishly complicated and relies on split-second timing. One small unexpected event could throw the plan into chaos. There’s a reason Johnny was in prison. He’s clever, but not quite as clever as he thinks he is.

Johnny has decided that it’s a mistake to use professional criminals on a job like this. They’re too easy for the police to trace. He’s using amateurs, and he can rely on them because they all want money really really bad. And this robbery could net them two million dollars. Two million dollars in 1956 was an almost inconceivably huge amount of money. Enough to finance a life of ease and luxury for everyone involved.

Cop Randy Kennan (Ted de Corsia) is a key player. He’s not a crooked cop but he’s a gambler and he’s heavily in debt. Marvin Unger (Jay C. Flippen) will provide the money needed to set things up. Bartender Mike O’Reilly (Joe Sawyer) will be needed for one crucial moment during the robbery, as will racetrack cashier George Peatty (Elisha Cook Jr.).

George needs the money because without money his wife Sherry Peatty (Marie Windsor) will leave him. Sherry is no good but George is crazy about her. He just can’t think straight where Sherry is concerned.

The robbery itself is presented to us from the viewpoint of various characters, with the narrative constantly jumping back and forth in both place and time. That’s more or less how the novel is structured but doing this in a movie in 1956 was very very daring indeed, and the way Kubrick does it seems more radical than the way it’s done in the book.

It’s this unconventional narrative that makes The Killing such an important and striking movie. This was Kubrick, still inexperienced and still in his twenties, serving notice that he was going to start breaking cinematic rules in a big way. In The Killing he manages to break the rules whilst still giving us an exciting heist movie that is perfectly coherent and easy to follow. Kubrick trusted his audience to pick up on what he was doing.

Sterling Hayden and Elisha Cook Jr. give what are close to career-best performances. Hayden is very low-key because that’s the kind of guy Johnny is. He’s the kind of criminal who just loves sitting and planning crimes. Johnny should have become a crime writer instead of a criminal. The problem with real crimes is that you have to put them into execution and that’s when your ingenious plans start to go wrong. Johnny never loses his cool. Elisha Cook Jr. is all nervous energy and anxiety and thwarted love. He’s a loser but we feel sorry for him.

Jay C. Flippen is always worth watching. Marie Windsor gives us a memorable femme fatale in Sherry. She’s a schemer and a tramp and she knows it but she still manages to justify it to herself. Vincent Edwards is good as Val. I can’t tell you what part he plays in the story without revealing spoilers.

The heist itself is filmed in an intricate and methodical way as the pieces slowly slot together. We can see lots of things that might go wrong but we don’t know exactly which of those things will go awry.

Kubrick sticks very closely to White’s novel, except for the ending. I don’t think the ending was changed due to censorship problems or even studio interference. I just think Kubrick thought his ending was a bit more cinematic. The endings of both book and movie work extremely well.

Now we have to confront one of the most controversial questions in movie history - the aspect ratios of Kubrick’s movies. It’s a fiendishly complicated subject and people get very heated about it. As far as I can make out Kubrick not only shot but composed most (but not all) his movies in the 1.37:1 ratio, the old “Academy” ratio. When shown in theatres they were usually cropped to make them appear to be in widescreen ratios. Kubrick had no control over this. When it came time to release his films on DVD Kubrick made it very clear that he wanted them to be seen in the 1.37:1 aspect ratio because that was the closest to his original intentions when he made the movies. Kubrick’s wishes were respected.

When his movies started to be released on Blu-Ray his wishes were ignored and most of his movies were cropped to make them fit widescreen aspect ratios.

The Killing
seems to have been shot and composed in 1.37:1. The original DVD releases were in this format. When Criterion released the movie on Blu-Ray they ignored Kubrick’s wishes and cropped it to make it compatible with the 16:9 format. So if you buy the Criterion Blu-Ray you’re not seeing the movie the way Kubrick wanted it seen, you’re seeing it the way the folks at Criterion have decided you’re going to see it. It was presumably a commercial decision - modern audiences prefer the widescreen formats. But that’s not what Kubrick wanted and since he was the director I assume he was in the best position to judge how his movies should be presented. Watching The Killing in 1.37:1 I have to say that it looks right.

But as I said it’s a controversial topic and no-one can claim to have a definitive answer.

The Killing has plenty of film noir credentials. The various members of the gang are mostly vaguely sympathetic, but they’re losers. They’re motivated not just by greed but by wishful thinking, which to me seems very noir. They really think they’re going to get away with it, because if they don’t they’ll have to accept being losers for the rest of their lives.

A brilliant movie by a director who was already confident enough to go his own way, and skilful enough to get away with it. Very highly recommended.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

White Savage (1943)

White Savage (also released as White Captive) is included in the new three-movie Kino Lorber Maria Montez Blu-Ray set. When this movie was released Maria Montez was at the height of her popularity.

Montez, daughter of a Spanish diplomat, had a brief but spectacular Hollywood career in the mid-1940s. Her movies were mostly lightweight adventure/romances in exotic settings but they were just what the movie-going public wanted.

You have to remember that until the 1960s overseas travel was hopelessly out of the reach of most ordinary people. The only way they ever got to see exotic places was on the movie screen, and naturally they adored movies that offered them a glimpse of places they would never get to see in real life. Of course what they got to see was a Hollywood fantasy version of faraway places but audiences didn’t mind.

White Savage
takes place in a setting that is pure Hollywood. It’s a group of islands. This imaginary island chain could be in the Caribbean, in the Pacific or in the Indian Ocean. The culture is a mishmash of just about every island culture imaginable.

The islands are ruled by Princess Tahia (Montez). She does a pretty good job. Her people are happy. There are however some lies in the ointment. The first is her worthless spoilt kid brother Tamara (Turhan Bey). His gambling threatens the survival of this island paradise since he’s prepared to gamble away the deeds to the most important island.

The second threat comes from Miller (Thomas Gomez). He wants Tahia but mostly he wants what is at the bottom of the Sacred Pool on Temple Island - a fabulous treasure in gold and jewels.

Shark fisherman Kaloe (Jon Hall) has a problem as well. He wants the shark fishing rights to the waters surrounding the Temple Island and the princess refuses to grant him those rights.

He confronts the princess. Naturally (this being that sort of movie) they clash at first but there is also a strong physical attraction between them. The princess thinks Kaloe is insufferable but rather hunky. He thinks she’s arrogant and headstrong but totally gorgeous.

We know that love is going to blossom between these two but the evil machinations of Miller put some major obstacles in their way. Miller will stop at nothing, not even murder, to get that treasure.

The screenplay (by Richard Brooks) is pretty predictable but this is a fluffy feelgood movie so that doesn’t matter. What matters is that the film (shot in Technicolor) looks exquisite and has the right mixture of adventure, romance and humour.

Maria Montez was very good at playing princesses and she’s a sympathetic heroine. Her acting range was limited but movies such as this were well within her capabilities. All she really needed to do was to be beautiful, glamorous, exotic, fiery and passionate and she had no difficulty whatsoever doing just that.

Jon Hall is a fine conventional hero, perhaps a bit of a rough diamond but with a good heart. Turhan Bey does well as the wretched loser Tamara. Sabu plays Kaloe’s good-natured but occasionally exasperating young friend Orano.

Thomas Gomez is a good villain - sinister enough but not too sinister (this is a lighthearted movie). Sidney Toler plays Wong. He’s the island’s notary public, lawyer, detective and doctor and in fact performs just about every possible function. Toler plays him exactly the way he played Charlie Chan, which is OK because he was a great Charlie Chan and his performance is a delight.

Maria Montez’s movies for Universal are occasionally described as B-movies but they’re actually A-pictures, albeit modesty budgeted ones. No movie shot in Technicolor in the mid-40s can be described as a B-picture. Universal spent enough money on the film to give it a suitably lush feel. Universal knew they really couldn’t go far wrong when they teamed Maria Montez, Jon Hallo and Sabu and they teamed them frequently.

Kino Lorber have provided a superb transfer. All three movies come on a single disc which is no problem since the running times for each film are around the hour-and-quarter mark.

Movies don’t come much more lightweight than White Savage but it’s romantic and it’s fun. Great escapist fare, highly recommended.

I've reviewed other Maria Montez movies - Arabian Nights (1942) and Siren of Atlantis (1949), both of which are even better.

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Ride Lonesome (1959)

Ride Lonesome is a 1959 Ranown Pictures Budd Boetticher western starring Randolph Scott. As was the case with most of the Boetticher-Randolph Scott westerns the script is by Burt Kennedy. It has all the ingredients you expect in a Budd Boetticher western. This was the second last of the much-admired Boetticher-Scott westerns.

Randolph Scott plays bounty hunter Ben Brigade. Brigade is a man who seems to be closed off emotionally. Eventually we will find out why. Brigade is taking Billy John (James Best) to Santa Cruz where Billy will certainly be hanged. Brigade despises he thinks Billy is a coward who shot a man in the back but there’s really nothing personal in it as far as Brigade is concerned. He’s just a bounty hunter doing his job. We will of course later find out that Brigade’s motives are not as they appear to be.

On the way to Santa Cruz they reach a swing station, a coaching post which seems to be strangely deserted. The man who runs the station is nowhere to be found. The man’s pretty young wife, Mrs Carrie Lane (Karen Steele), is there alone. And then Brigade discovers there are two men there, Boone (Pernell Roberts) and Whit (James Coburn). Brigade knows the reputation of these two men, and it’s a decidedly shady reputation. They’re career criminals but Brigade has no quarrel with them. There’s no bounty on their heads. They’re not the kinds of men that Brigade would normally choose to ride with but there’s a Mescalero war party (the Mescaleros being an Apache tribe) that looks like being major trouble. Brigade has a parley with the chief of the war party. The Mescaleros want to make a peaceful trade. If Brigade gives them Mrs Lane they will give him a fine horse in exchange.

Brigade naturally isn’t prepared to trade but reaching Santa Cruz is now going to be difficult. He’s going to need the help of Boone and Whit. He knows they can’t be trusted but he has no choice. Even when he finds out that Boone intends to kill him, he still has no choice. Billy John’s brother Frank (Lee Van Cleef) is riding to his kid brother’s rescue. Billy John is just a cowardly hot-headed punk but Frank is a different kettle of fish. He’s a really mean vicious killer and he has a gang of cut-throats riding with him.

That’s the setup, and it’s perfect for a Boetticher western. Boone and Whit have an agenda but Brigade knows all about it. Brigade’s real agenda is however something we won’t learn about until later in the movie.

Boone decides that he wants Mrs Lane. She’s not interested. She despises both Boone and Brigade as men of blood, men who kill for money. Brigade does it legally but that doesn’t make it any better in Mrs Lane’s eyes. Brigade is going to have to protect Mrs Lane from Boone even if she isn’t likely to thank him for it.

There’s quite a bit of action and there are plenty of tense moments but of course what the movie really is is a character study of Ben Brigade, a man driven by demons from the past. Randolph Scott does well. The role needed to be handled with subtlety and that’s how Scott handles it.

Pernell Roberts and James Coburn are terrific as Boone and Whit. Roberts is particularly good. Boone is not a cardboard cut-out bad guy. There’s some complexity to the character. He doesn’t want to kill Brigade. It’s just that he has to do it. Boone is perhaps an even more interesting and complex character than Brigade. 

Whit isn’t real smart but he’s loyal to Boone, and Boone is loyal to him. They’re not very admirable characters but their friendship for each other is real which makes a nice contrast to Brigade who has no friends.

Karen Steele is good as Mrs Lane, a woman who thinks she can look after herself but maybe the world is an even more dangerous place that she’d thought.

The ending is not quite what I expected but naturally I’m not going to give you any hints about that.

Being a Budd Boetticher movie Ride Lonesome looks spectacular. Charles Lawton Jr’s cinematography is one of the movie’s major assets.

This is the third Budd Boetticher western I’ve seen and I can’t really pick a favourite. He just seemed to be so consistently good. I’ve also reviewed 7 Men From Now (1956) and Comanche Station (1960).

During the 1950s the classic Hollywood western became much more adult and more sophisticated, dealing with difficult ethical and emotional dilemmas. Ride Lonesome is typical of this trend. And it’s gripping entertainment as well. Highly recommended.

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Jackpot (1960)

Jackpot is a British crime movie cheapie from 1960. It’s not a particularly good movie but there are two reasons to watch it, which I’ll get to later.

Carl Stock (George Mikell) is a young German who served a prison sentence and was then deported from Britain. Now he’s back in London illegally and he sees himself as a man on a mission. Sam Hare (Eddie Byrne) owes him money. Carl intends to get that money. They pulled off a robbery together and Carl took the fall for it on the understanding there’d be plenty of money waiting for him when he got out of prison.

Carl also intends to get his wife back.

Unfortunately for Carl Sam Hare is now a big time operator. Sam has no intention of giving Carl a penny.

And Carl’s wife Kay (Betty McDowall) is now a successful model and she doesn’t have the slightest intention of going back to hm.

But Carl just can’t see any of this. As far as he’s concerned he’s entitled to the money so Sam will just have to pay up. And Kay is his wife so she’ll just have to take him back.

When it becomes obvious that Sam isn’t going to pay up voluntarily Carl decides to steal the money. There’s plenty of money in the safe in the Jackpot night-club (one of Sam’s business ventures). Carl decides he’ll persuade Lenny Lane (Michael Ripper) to crack the safe for him. Lenny is as hopeless as Carl. He’s gone straight and he’s doing OK and he has a moderately successful cafe but Carl talks him into the hare-brained scheme.

As you would expect, Carl and Lenny manage to make a total mess of the robbery.

They not only have the police closing in on them, they have Sam Hare’s goons after them as well. It took Sam about thirty seconds to work out that Carl was the one who robbed his safe but it never occurred to Carl that Sam would figure this out. And it never occurred to Carl that the police would very quickly latch onto him as the prime suspect.

Crooks just don’t come any dumber than Carl. He’s bungled everything he’s ever done. He’s a loser. Everyone knows he’s a loser. Everyone but Carl. Carl thinks he’s going to be a success. He’s never actually managed to come up with a workable plan for becoming a success. He thinks that because he wants it to happen it will happen.

Montgomery Tully was usually at the very least a competent director (and sometimes a pretty good one). He doesn’t really shine here. I suspect that he was shooting on an incredibly tight schedule (this is clearly a very very low-budget movie) with no time to do anything except make sure the camera was in focus. Visually this movie is pretty basic.

It’s a movie that has perhaps a very very slight noir flavour. There’s certainly a feeling of inevitable doom. This would have been more successful had Carl been made a slightly more interesting slightly more sympathetic character. But as it stands he’s just too dumb to make us care about him. And George Mikell’s performance is just too one-note.

But as I said earlier there are two reasons to watch this movie. The first is William Hartnell’s delightful performance as Superintendent Frawley. He’s wonderful. The second is Michael Ripper as the hapless Lenny. Michael Ripper is best remembered for his many appearances in Hammer horror movies. In Jackpot he gets a meatier rôle and he’s terrific.

The problem is the pedestrian script. It’s creaky and it’s sorely lacking in unexpected twists. It’s just not a terribly interesting script.

This is one of the ten movies in the Renown Pictures Crime Collection Volume 2 DVD boxed set. It’s an uneven set but it does include a couple of neglected gems such as The Third Alibi (1961) and Impulse (1954). The transfer for Jackpot is watchable but it’s not great and there’s quite a bit of print damage.

Jackpot is a very routine crime melodrama. If you buy the boxed set (and you should buy it) then it’s worth giving this movie a spin if you’re a fan of Hartnell or Ripper.